I had been training for 5 or 6 years and was perhaps experiencing the golden years of my capoeira life. I thought there was no capoeirista who could beat me in a game. Bahia was beautiful and the center of the universe for us Bahians. Blacks and whites mingled in the narrow streets paved with hundred-year-old cobblestone. White linen suits were seen everywhere on Sundays and at plaza parties. My two-toned shoes with pointy tips were my favorite and my rusty but sharp razor rested nervously in the pocket of my bell-bottomed pants. In the absence of so many events as there are today, in the inexistence of the internet that governs us like the god of communication and in the silence of the secretive practice of capoeira which served as an essential requirement of malandragem, I felt like a samurai that had lost his master, a “ronin” in search of mortal duels in the quiet of the night. I traveled looking for the best capoeiristas.
In the north zone of Rio de Janeiro I met Arthur Emídio in the pharmacy where he worked. He had heard of me and we went to his academy together. I watched his class seated on a bench in the small room. There was a lot of excitement and capoeiristas flew doing jumps and flips I had never seen before. Arthur was a dynamo who jumped, rolled on the floor, clapped his hands, and let loose a very loud and partly falsetto “IÊÊÊ” to stop the music at the right time, which I imitated for many years. Without a doubt he was a candidate for a great duel!
The class ended and Arthur invited me to enter the roda. I played with two of his students. One left the roda limping and the other was knocked out with the help of a meia lua de compasso to the head. Arthur Emídio called me to the foot of the berimbau. The moment of the grand duel had arrived. We played for a very long time with the maldade that devoured me and made me want to play even more. Arthur did not hesitate one second. He played with a mercurial-like slipperiness that I could not touch. Every once in a while he would flip trying to hit my head but he only hit the wind of my shadow. He had given himself away when he wanted to show (or scare) me by doing two similar flips on a bag of sand during his class. After two hours the lights went out in the street. Arthur went to the pharmacy where he worked next to the academy, grabbed a few packets of candles which we lit around the roda, and we continued the “catch me if you can.” At around 2am we decided to stop. As the song goes, he did not win, and neither did I. To celebrate we had a beer at the bar on the corner.
Go with God, capoeira. One of these days we will meet again to resolve this duel.